The soaring walls above Glencoe’s Tunnel Wall are back in vogue this summer, with a new “four star” E7 getting a spectacular on-sight attempt just a week after it was first climbed.
Scottish dark horse Iain Small climbed the line of flakes left of Romantic Reality on Creag A’Bhancair on the centenary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand - 28 June - to give a new superb E7 called The End of Innocence.
The line had apparently been prospected by Kev Howett around the time he and Dave Cuthbertson added the upper pitches of Romantic Reality and made it an Extreme Rock tick. They decided it was one for the future, and although it has been given the same grade, The End of Innocence is likely to be considerably harder, but better protected.
Iain showed the route to Niall McNair, knowing of his quest to add a Scottish E7 on-sight to the English, Irish and Welsh ticks he already has. Guaranteed to be clean and still sporting some chalk, Niall threw himself at it, dispatching the bold lower wall with a nut and a skyhook for gear to gain the flake system.
He recalls: “From that moment on it keeps coming at you. There is very good gear but you yard out on undercuts that get worse and worse and footholds that get smaller and smaller. Just when you think you can’t go any further you see a big flat flake you have to launch for.”
More hard and run-out climbing followed, with Niall eventually finding himself on a large undercut a few metres short of the belay. The conventional shake out proving inadequate due to low footholds, he then turned to face out, palming the flake above his head, 60m from the ground.
“I was facing down Glencoe, leaning out and letting gravity do the work,” he says. “I managed to get a good recovery.”
Niall then proceeded to blow the final hard move above, only realising after he lowered off and spoke to Iain that he had in fact missed the best part of a key hold.
“At that point I wanted to go home and burn all my climbing equipment,” he says. “But 45 minutes later I went back up and got the hold. I couldn’t believe it, it was really good.”
After the Scots fashion, Niall reckoned the route worth four stars, describing it as one of the best hard routes in Scotland, high in the grade and a modern classic.
He should know: describing himself as a “tactical parasitical connoisseur”, his methods involve waiting until hard routes have been cleaned and chalked up before he get on them. Iain, who appropriately also put up an E6 on Bhancair called The Constant Gardener, has done him quite a few favours in that respect, and his efforts mean Romantic Reality is also clean this summer.
Niall said: “I would like to personally nominate Iain for a ‘Golden WireBrush’ award for all the hard work he has put in to cleaning old routes and new routes throughout Scotland.”
The photos in this report are from UKC User Fraser's Photo Gallery - check it out for more superb UK Rock Photos.